Kansas State coach Bill Snyder is pleased with his team’s progress through the first two weeks of the season.
North Texas coach Dan McCarney knows his squad needs to improve or it could be in for a long Saturday night in Manhattan, Kan.
The 15th-ranked Wildcats will try to close out their season-opening homestand with a sixth straight victory over the Mean Green, who are going for their best start since rejoining the FBS 17 years ago.
Disappointed at his team’s slow start in a 51-9 season-opening win over FCS opponent Missouri State on Sept. 1, Snyder was glad to see the Wildcats (2-0) get on the board early in last Saturday’s 52-13 victory over Miami. Senior quarterback Collin Klein had two of his three rushing touchdowns in the opening 12:08 and led Kansas State to scores on its first four series.
The Wildcats also registered their first five sacks of the season while holding the Hurricanes to 262 total yards, 156 fewer than Kansas State allowed in the opener.
“We’re a work in progress,” Snyder, a former North Texas assistant, said after the Wildcats’ 10th consecutive September victory. “But we’re vastly improved.”
If Klein can continue to improve as a passer, the Wildcats could make some noise when Big 12 play begins Sept. 22 at Oklahoma. Arguably one of the best running quarterbacks in the country, Klein completed nine of 11 passes against Miami for 210 yards, including a 27-yard TD to sophomore wide receiver Curry Sexton.
“I mean, in a way coach is rubbing off on me because what I’m thinking about right now are the two field goals we had to kick inside the 10,” Klein said.
Redshirt freshman Antoinne Jimmerson rushed for 139 yards and junior Brandin Byrd added 136 as North Texas ran for 352, ninth-most in program history. However, the Mean Green didn’t pull away until two late TD runs.
“We’re going to have to be a lot better next week,” McCarney, who coached with Snyder at Iowa from 1979-88, told the school’s official website.
While the Mean Green have shown they can run the ball without Lance Dunbar, who left after last season as the program’s all-time leading rusher, they might have to rely more on the quarterback-wide receiver combination of Derek Thompson and Brelan Chancellor on Saturday. The Wildcats’ defense, led by senior linebacker Arthur Brown, is holding opponents to 2.5 yards per carry.
After giving up 316 yards on the ground in a 41-14 loss at third-ranked LSU on Sept. 1, North Texas limited Texas Southern to 31 rushing yards - the fewest allowed by the Mean Green in 20 years. However, slowing down Klein, junior running back John Hubert and backup quarterback Daniel Sams presents an entirely different challenge.
Klein and Sams have each run for three scores, while Hubert has two with 258 rushing yards.
Then a backup, Klein scored on a 6-yard run in the last matchup between these teams, a 49-41 Kansas State road victory Nov. 27, 2010.
The other five meetings have been played in Manhattan, with the Wildcats winning the last four since a 22-10 defeat Sept. 28, 1985.